Lima beans, also called butter beans for their rich texture and flavor, are the seeds of the lima bean plant pod. Canned and dried lima beans are available all over the country, while fresh beans are found during the summer and fall. Lima beans aren't just green and boring, there are lots of different varieties with different flavors for most palates.
The lima bean, according to the Oklahoma State University Extension, originates from Peru. Lima beans, in one form or another, have been grown since 6000 B.C. The name of the bean comes from Peru's capital city, Lima. Lima beans also go by the name chad bean, as well as the aforementioned butter bean.
Lima beans are not eaten raw as they contain a small portion of a cyanide compound, produced by linamarin, which is highly poisonous. In the United States, regulations are in place to limit the amount of linamarin in a bean variety. According to foodreference.com, beans from Java and Burma contain 20 to 30 times more concentrated linamarin than most western countries allow.
According to the Whole Foods website, lima beans are a good source of dietary protein. A cup of lima beans contains 14.7 grams of protein, 29 percent of your daily protein values. This also provides 52.6 percent of a day's dietary fiber needs, with only a small amount of fat intake. Lima beans are also a prime source of iron, blood sugar stabilizers and antioxidants.
Lima beans come in three main bean varieties, says Oklahoma State University: large, small and dwarf beans. Large lima beans are usually green and speckled and have a stronger flavor than light green bean varieties, which usually fall into the small bean category. Dwarf beans are also called butter peas, and are white and speckled and contain less starch.
Fresh lima beans are difficult to find in the U.S. due to small crops and regulations. Most lima beans are found canned, frozen or dried, but fresh beans are available to grow, or purchase from small farmers markets.